A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘Eigg’

Nordic Horizons Session

The room was full, around seventy odd, people standing at the back, and they came to listen to the Highlanders tell their community’s stories of their recent history and in some cases not so recent. The Glen Wyvis story went back to the Jacobites, but I digress. The videos will be out shortly. Maggie started the trio off after Kristin introduced the breakout session by telling us about Nordic Horizons which was set up in 2010 to learn and exchange knowledge from our near neighbours around the Arctic Circle. Over the years there have been 40 events learning about the Scandinavian experience in diverse subjects such as kindergarten, cycling, constitution and oil.

The name Eigg comes from Old Norse meaning the edge of a blade. Although I knew the background to the buy out it was interesting to hear first hand the transfer of the island from Schellenberg to Maruma and finally to the Community of Eigg. From degradation to mystery and finally to rejuvenation. The plans continue and currently they are investigating growing their community hub as its needs has outgrown its original structure. The story of their renewable energy system is immense and the combination of hydro, solar and wind for local use must be a way to go in many rural, remote communities. The most telling statistic of all is the population increase of around 60 during the buyout to over a 100 now. Huge amount of hard work, volunteering, and dedication has gone into the story and it is continuing. Listening to the story I could not help reflecting on what is happening back home and how the residents of Eigg talk naturally about Community Owned Assets. I think this very natural idea has not been accepted yet on our peninsula. I may be wrong and often am but I know that a number of our community desire and are very capable of running such assets and this is  one of the missed opportunities in the Trust Consultation. While I was involved it was brought up several times but never quite made it into any of the documents. I have since dropped out and this may have changed, but until the Community Company/Community has access to Community Assets we will not be able to replicate the wonderful work carried out on Eigg.

Next up was John,

the Flying Farmer, who is the powerhouse behind Glen Wyvis Distillery. Fascinating history of distilling around the Dingwall (another Norse name) and Black Isle area. This was followed by some professional videos and beautiful scenic views showing off the best of the Scottish wild landscape. I invested in the distillery some months ago and hearing about the renewable side to the venture I may put another sum into it as the plan is to produce around 500kWhs and have the operation run 100% on renewable energy. Do not know where John gets his energy from but it appears unlimited. I am taking two or three steps back and will be doing more of that in the near future, need to rejuvenate some energy from some where.

Alison was next up

and told the story of the Applecross Community Company, the Filling Station, the Broadband and the Hydro Scheme and possible future developments. Imagine if access to land was added to this list……..Needless to say that the session over ran but the interest stayed until the end, Eigg and Applecross are already on the map and are now known around the Arctic Circle and I would reckon there may be a wee spike in investments to the only renewable energy distillery at Glen Wyvis.

So our weekend draws to close and while waiting for Alison to meander through the Harpa shop a couple of American students struck up a lovely warm conversation which began by asking what I thought of our FM Nicola Sturgeon. They thought she was the best ambassador a country could have. Chatted for quite a while and the conversation ranged across all issues affecting land in Scotland to health in America. If they weren’t Socialists they were pretty close to it and it must be good for their nation to have sharp minds like theirs come to conferences like the Arctic Circle. They have a standing invite if they ever make it to Applecross and we left in good cheer.Walked down town

through the Flea Market and back up rather tired to the accommodation.

It must be good that people to know the positive steps taken forward by the communities in the Highlands and in our case despite the people in control rather than with their help. The evening ended with a late night wander through the town centre and back down to the Harpa Centre

thinking about all the folk we have met over the weekend, Rasmus, Anders, John, Maggie, Kirsty,

Graham and many others.

Going to be a tourist for the next three days and looking forward to it.

Celtic Connections Part 1

Coming to the end of a long day but what music. Did not know about Small Glories but when their album is out this summer its a sure cert for a buy. They were brilliant, a duo who played their own as well as covers, Led Zeppelin folk band,evocative song about a fisherman lost at sea. They spent a bit of time in the East of Canada in the Maritimes writing songs. She played a mean banjo and we had a series of jokes about it. One being what do you call a woman on a banjo players arm……..a tattoo. Found out later that Cara Luft was a Wailing Jenny.


Reminds me…earlier in the day while waiting for Alison to come up from Dumfries I nipped out for a wee snack. On the way out I over heard the next customers request, “Three bottles of Buckfast, please.” I was definitely in Glasgow, the “please” gave it away.

As I had bought The Lone Bellow’s album after the Cambridge gig I was familiar with the set. The atmosphere, the crowd, the venue (OranMor) and the music made for one of those gigs that I will never forget.


You could see the band were affected themselves. I do not think I have been to a gig where, almost to a person, the crowd came to listen to the music first and foremost. They played a series of slower emotionally charged harmonies around an old style mic and people in the crowd shushed everyone to silence. You could hear a pin drop. Before and after this part of the show it was rocky Americana, full on guitars, keyboards ands rhythm.


If there is such a thing as a musical spirituality it was at the Oran Mor on Saturday night. They came back on to do an acapella version of Slip Sliding Away that was simply awesome. Privilege to be there.

Day 2 After a pleasant lunch with in-law’s and Son No4 I split off and headed back down to the centre and Hazy Recollections, main attraction was Small Glories and they were good value. They dedicated their set to the Saskatchewan families who had lost relatives in the insane shooting back home. Power of music. There were five sets in all and was well taken by Michael Cassidy and a band Have Mercy Las Vegas. Great sounds. Nothing wrong with the other two but pleasant to doze off to. In the evening the ten ladies who went to Eigg for a week this summer treated us to a special two hours of musical magic. From Bulgaria to the Gaelic Highlands and so many places in between. The theme of Separation was a loose theme for the music and ranged from songs about homeless in London to the cave where the Macleod’s massacred the Macdonalds. We heard Norn and Gaelic, accompanied by fiddles, clarsachs, bass guitars and mini organ.


And then outside I come across a couple, Bridie and Donald, I served at the Inn last year. Inevitable I suppose. Used my google map app to get home as we only have the one road in Applecross, a bit more confusing down here. Discovered that it was less than ten minutes from the hotel but thirty minutes the way I went.

The weather by the way was much the same as back home although it seemed slightly more remote due to the streets, buildings and people, not as raw as Applecross.


Knoydart Part 2, Visiting Inverie

Following the talk in the morning by Liz there were changes of plans that Davie had to cope with due to the weather. We were planning to go north to Airor to discuss forest crofts. This was going to involve a boat trip and a land rover preceded by a steep walk up the back of Doune. The weather was very unpredictable and was swinging around from the south-west to the north and combined with a lowish tide and a 3/4 foot swell Andy decided that it was too uncomfortable for those who would not care for the hill climb.IMG_2525

Instead we had a very good short discussion about broadband and with Elgar’s help I now have a little more understanding of the issues and being told that there is a 100% take up in Knoydart is comforting. They are on the JANet, over from the Gaelic College and superior to what we intend to put in but out of sight to what we have. Although broadband is a done deal in Koydart Davie realised that it is an issue for most of the communities up and down the coast and there seems to be a lot of movement and growing awareness that problems can be solved.

Lunch and then it was off to Inverie.


One or two decided not to hike up the hill to the road but it was well worth the effort. Even although the weather was still pretty poor the views over to Eigg were awesome. Lots of memories around the whole trip. I used to come down here fishing on the Dauntless Star and the Golden Rule and Peter Jan, up Loch Hourn, Sandaig, Marianne’s Point and Armadale Bay, staying at Isle Oronsay and Barrisdale overnight. In fact the last time I was in Mallaig by boat was with a not very sober Ali Rua on the mooch for bait. Happy days, I think. Jumped into Tommy’s landrover and it was off over the top to the “town”, Tommy being the local Ranger as well as the postie gave us a really interesting chat about the recent history of the land, who owned it and what they did not do with it. The story that stuck was the one of Lord Brocket who was a Nazi sympathiser, so much so that he was at Hitler’s 50th birthday celebrations in 1939. Much to his dismay The House and Knoydart was requisitioned for the SOE, fore runner of the SAS and after the war the first thing the “Lady” did was dump all cutlery, crockery and even toilets in Loch Nevis as they were “defiled” by the servicemen. Then they went on to sack most of the staff, employ their own toadies, shepherds were warned they could be shot for red deer, kids kept off the beaches, all quite extra ordinary. Finally it came to a head when the Seven Men of Knoydart staked out 65 acres of inbye and 10,000 acres of hill land and settled in.  They received huge popular support but poor legal advice and little political support. Although they ultimately failed Knoydart Foundation now exists for the people who live there. I used to think that The Clearances and the Land Raids were off  time and not to be constantly brought up but I am now full of admiration for these people who stood up to the establishment and with everything to lose. The little tiff we had in Applecross last year has brought this home to me. Remembering how stressful it was and that was with secure tenancies and accommodation they must have been living in awful conditions, both emotionally and physically to stand up for their justice and basic human rights.

First stop was a lovely wee tea room with a coffee and cake and a couple of presentations about the Foundation’s past present and future finances followed by a forestry talk and this was very specific to the Raasay contingent.


They seemed very pleased with what the got from it and probably over the next couple of days may realise that they have even more than they thought…it is the way it works. Chatting quite a bit to Andy and really interesting to get a very down to earth view on what goes on, more on the way back and good to get the history of the buy out and how at the start it was controlled by agencies and not the people themselves, that came later.

After afternoon tea it was off down to The Old Forge, via the little shop where I bought a calendar that you can use any year…..smart and maybe one for Applecross.


This is Andy with the Islay/Colonsay contingency getting ready for a pint.


After a pint of orange and lemonade I went for a wander round the head of the Bay while the guys slipped a couple of pints in.Distant memory for me and not missed. Sun popped out for a little while and showed off the place in its majestic glory.





And there was a bit of local character thrown in.


7.00pm and we were loaded up in the vehicles and driven back to tea at Doune. On the way back down the hill into Doune even in the now gloomy weather the views out west were magnificent with a clear sight of Eigg.


On time tonight  and prawns were promised….fresh and creel caught of course.

Diary of a Day Off.


Up at 7.00 am, breakfast with an eye out for the boys arriving from Eigg and Rhum on the Lola. A turn back to the older days when guys traveled by sea going from place to place up the west coast. Their alternative was to take the ferry from Mallaig and drive up to Applecross,involving timetables and fuel and expense. 7.45 am after seeing the Lola coming around the Ardban peninsula went down to the pier, got them onto the mooring and ashore, meeting George and Sean about our broadband installation roll out.



All very technical so it was up to the Bay with Dougal and Co. On the way up the first sighting of a dredger. The worst April Fool, I think, on the west coast is the opening up of the lochs to the mobile sector and I have to say that I find this method of fishing simply depressing. Stopped at Milton Loch and took a picture of Kenny quietly hauling his crab pots,sustainably, I think, and astern of him a boat totally unconnected to Applecross either socially or economically dredging for scallops. Tomorrow Kenny will be fishing there and the other boat will be destroying grounds somewhere else. Once he has done three or four runs over the ground that’s it for the year. Some one tell me that is a good way to treat the environment and explain the benefit to the seabed. 9.30 am, the bin for the Filling Station needed emptying and hopeful news on the software front as we are promised a visit next week. I rebooted yesterday and saw in the diary that was the third in four days. Lovely and crisp at the Bay where there was a mix of sunshine and frost on the seaweed. Dougal has a slightly mad look on his face but he is going somewhere very fast…don’t think he knows either.


Back to the house after a cup of tea at the Inn and the boys were ready for a lift back out to the Lola. Simon and Ian were upbeat after the meeting and there are plenty of options and potential for the roll out. There are lots of things going on at the same time such as working with CBS and finding out how to best secure the best speeds and also to tap in to the latest exchange upgrades. All good and going ahead. Zipped up into the dry suit for a dive around the Varuna for lost prawns and some work on my moorings. Did not turn out to be too successful as I did not have enough air, the wrong size of shackle,pea soup visibility, and not quite enough weights. As I am not diving so much now and not really a natural I find I need a bit more weight to get down. Time is getting on ,it’s 12.30 pm now. It is a blue sky day and warm.


Out into the garden for the afternoon and almost finished the four new raised beds courtesy of the salmon farm industry. Been told there are more coming into Kishorn in a couple of weeks so that will a job for the rest of the summer. First red admiral of the summer spotted and getting used to the new sound of the summer, bees flying back and fore collecting pollen for the hive. Lots of different colours coming in. Now 5.00 pm and getting a bit sore after diving and riddling soil for around three hours. Washing dry but going to leave it out and the tea cooked, barbecued pork chops.


Now 7.00pm, Archers and coffee and printed out the pier bills, so engrossed missed the first ten minutes of the Barcelona game but not the sunset. lots of issues in the day’s travels but only a diary today.


Some more Applecross Firsts.

The last couple of days has seen Simon from Eigg and Ian from Rhum come over and install the first stage of our Community broadband network. Alison had successfully applied for a grant to run a pilot scheme to set up our own community broadband as all we seem to get from government and big business are sound bites and programs promising us new and faster networks and then nothing happens. As we are learning it up to the community to go ahead and do it ourselves. So it was Hebnet we turned to and Broadford village hall who offered to be our “host’. Simon and Ian stopped off there at the beginning of the week to set up the dish and broadband at Broadford before coming over here yesterday. On Tuesday Sean and I headed up Tor Mor to roll the power cable down which was not as easy as first thought . Off course the rims of the cable reel are bigger than the inner resulting in the cable coming off slower than our pace. Solution from Sean meant we had to turn back up hill every now and again to keep the cable slack. so an hour and a half later in the wind and rain job done. So without many hitches the dish has been installed on the Tor Mor, then it was off to the Heritage Centre and the evening in the Inn saw Simon and Ian showing off our new 5/6 meg network. Today saw us down at the Pier with Ian installing a unit to beam the signal received from Tor Mor back to Camusterrach.

It was a miserable day and a lot of the work was outdoor but by the end of the day a couple of cables and a switch installed meant that by tomorrow there will be 9 installations completed and we hope to iron out any glitches over the winter, if there is any, and roll out the network to the rest of the community next spring. In the afternoon I took Dougal and co up the Tor Mor only to meet Sean and Simon up there tweeking the equipment.

 Looking forward to getting our 6 meg tomorrow. Jill will be down with our last connection and we are off. For some 6 meg is nothing to write home about but for here it a huge step into this century and will allow some people to move here with their work in tow.

Another first is the proposed solution to our medical cover. dan has applied and been offered the job with the support of a team from Raigmore. More of this later. when Dan was on Eigg doing some locum work he met Simon and expressed a wish for Applecross. Imagine his surprise when he opened the door to Simon this afternoon who installed the last of the units in the Nurses house, leaving a very happy Doc in his wake. An example of win, win,win, all the way for the community. Managed a couple of shifts at the Inn, not so busy last night but good to chat to everyone and an extraordinary coincidence of introducing the dentist lecturer to the good friends of a dentist he had taught in Birmingham who now lives in Kintail. Small world with Applecross Inn at the centre. A good days fishing yesterday meant that prawns and squats are back on the menu although squats already sold out tonight. Tonight Aussies on table D, All Blacks on A and South Africans on table 6. The New zealanders were from Waipu which has a strong connection to Wester Ross and a lot of antipodeans come back this way tracing their routes. Chris told me when he went to Waipu museum the first thing he saw was a picture of his own house. Supper tomorrow is a couple of codling caught yesterday, pan-fried in lemon and garlic with new pots from the garden.
The final first of this post was after over 30 years of fishing I got smacked right on the nose by a creel on Wednesday. Bit stunned and lots of blood and there wasn’t even a prawn in it. And some people think fishing is easy.

Community Broadband

Although the Community Company is still waiting to see if our application to take over and run the public toilets is successful we hope to progress an application which will help us to improve our woeful broadband provision. Two weeks ago I did a test which came back at .39 megs. I know how bad this is just by visitor reaction. There is a debate among some people who think that it would change Applecross for the worse. The argument goes that Applecross will lose some of its uniqueness, a poor argument if you realise that a graphics designer cannot work from home. And what about the young people? Do you condemn them to poor social media access because you cannot switch off your blackberry? As a Community Company board we have decided to go ahead and try to improve the system. Again this will be social enterprise in action where we apply front an initial grant to set up a system which will be run and maintained locally and will improve an essential service and hopefully attract much-needed new families into the area.The system depends on finding a host relay point in Broadford to beam the signal across to Applecross. We are working with guys that have set up a successful system on Eigg. Simon sailed to Applecross two weekends ago and spent a day with Sean and Alison looking at the potential.He immediately identified a point that would give coverage for the south townships and we hope to make contact with Arnish in north Raasay to relay a signal round the north coast where they still have dial-up service. Simon was very positive after his visit and described it as an exciting challenge with a small mast on the Tor Mor above the Hall and also at Ardubh. The essence of the project is that it will be handed over to us to install and operate ourselves, going back to the principle of self-help rather than wait for other outside agencies to do it for us. Lots of work to be done but a positive project for the Community Company to improve working and social conditions making survival on the edge more likely. Of course I had to take Dougal up to case Tor Mor and after I quelled his interest in a three-hour old lamb he give his approval and headed off for his walk.

The views from up there were stunning and I always think that we have the best of everything , assuming this scheme works out, we are living in such a beautiful part of the world and still benefiting from latest technology. Cheffie from the Inn kitchen is just out of picture relaxing on his croft. He has to keep away from the stove at least two days a week to stay sane. Robert must have one of the best views from any croft in Scotland. We are advised to stay away from BT as much as possible as we find big organisations seem either not interested or incapable of working out solutions for minority situations. The end product will be the Community Company providing a Local Broadband network of up to 8 meg which allows streaming and uploading of graphics taken for granted in most of the rest of the country.

After a cracking walk it was off to the Inn for another session lasting from half ten through till half five. Musicians from Lochcarron providing the backdrop appreciated especially by the group of visitors who flew up from Manchester for lunch…..yes I kid you not. I had a really interesting discussion with a customer who was wondering how there were so many people at the Inn and we went through about five or six different reasons,good food,scenery,hospitality but he was looking for something else and I suppose I touched on it on my last post. It is very hard to put into words this indefinable magic that is Applecross and found every day at the Inn.

Todays activities were curtailed somewhat by me pulling a back muscle while eating my muesli for breakfast, managed to plant most of the main crop potatoes with only a row left to do. Did a last row in the evening with the sun shining through the blossoms on the apple trees and Dougal keeping me company maybe with thoughts of yesterdays walk fleeting through his consciousness.

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